RALEIGH — Erik Cole took to the ice twice today at the RBC Center -- with and then without skates.
Cole first put in a practice with the Hurricanes. Soon afterward, the forward went back out for a different form of hockey: sled hockey.
As part of a fundraiser for the Erik Cole Dream Big Foundation, Cole joined members of the Triangle Special Hockey Association (TSHA) sled hockey team for some up-and-down action. He even had a goal and assist in the short game.
"It looks like it can be rough at times," Cole said, smiling. "It definitely was a lot of fun. It's much harder than it looks. I thought I had good balance until I got out here."
Since 2007, Cole's foundation has supported youth hockey programs and children suffering from cancer and other diseases, helping to raise awareness. The program has been based in Cole's hometown of Oswego, N.Y., but he is shifting the focus of the program now to the Triangle.
Funds raised by the foundation will help TSHA purchase sleds, equipment and ice time. It also will help cover the travel costs of attending the USA Hockey Disabled Festival in Blaine, Minn.
All but one of the TSHA participants today were disabled. A couple were juniors, and the organization hopes to attract more junior-aged players.
"For us to be able to do something here in the Raleigh area, that's what we've been kicking around for a long time," Cole said. "I do a lot of charity work around here and I'm proud to say we can now do some foundation work down here and hopefully raise some funds and get it back out to all the children's programs in the area.
"Hopefull we can get the word out to the kids that if they want to come out and play it's available to them. There aren't going to be any limits or restrictions.
There is no fee to participate in TSHA and equipment is provided. Participants range in age from 11 to 80.
For information, go to www.ecdreambig.com.